On July 12, MNUFC officially signed Paraguayan right-back Alan Benítez from Cerro Porteño. Before he begins his Minnesota United career, let’s take a look at what he brings to the team and where his career has taken him.
Benítez began his playing career in 2013 with his hometown club, Club Libertad Asunción. Commonly known as Libertad, they participate in the Paraguayan Primera División, the top flight of Paraguayan soccer. He was joined by another future Loon at Libertad in 2013, none other than fellow Paraguayan Luis Amarilla.
The right-back stayed under contract with Libertad until 2019, though loan spells saw him gain experience in the Paraguayan and Portuguese second divisions with Rubio Nu and Benfica B respectively. After 98 games with Libertad, Benítez signed with Club Olimpia Asunción in 2020. Olimpia are Paraguay’s most successful soccer team, with 45 national titles to their name and the distinction of being the only Paraguayan side to win a continental trophy.
Following his lone season with Olimpia, Benítez crossed Paraguay’s biggest soccer rivalry to join Cerro Porteño. Cerro Porteño are the second most successful side in league history, claiming 34 national titles. This would be his final stop before coming to the North Star state.
On the field, Benítez stands out most when joining the attack. In the modern game, fullbacks have to be part of both the attack and the defense, a balance that few can master. Benítez seems to have found that balance and will offer the Loons another dimension on the right side of the field.
During his time in his native league, Benítez accumulated five goals and 11 assists. He will be looking to add to that tally during his time in MLS.
Though Benítez has made his career as a right-back, that’s not all he does. The 28-year-old has played as both a winger and a left-back when called upon, experience that will add needed depth and versatility to his new team.
After spending six seasons in the Paraguayan league, Benítez will find that MLS follows a different format. In Paraguay, seasons are split into two independent half seasons, called the Apertura (opening) and Clausura (closing). On top of that, the end of each season sees the two teams with the worst three-year point averages get relegated to the second division, swapping places with the best two teams in the lower league.
Of the 12 teams currently in the PPD, eight of them are based in Asunción. The league is relatively small, expectedly so. Paraguay has a population of just over 7 million people, about the same as the state of Indiana. That means that travel demands are almost the opposite of what players experience in MLS, where a midweek game might be 2,000 miles away from home.
Despite its size, the Paraguayan top flight has seen many talented players come through it, including Miguel Almirón, Roque Santa Cruz, and Sebastián Ferreira, among others.
In addition to his experience in the Paraguayan league, Benítez has played in several of South America’s most famous tournaments. Most notably, he has appeared in both the Copa Sudamericana and the Copa Libertadores. These tournaments include many of South America’s best clubs, similar to the CONCACAF and UEFA Champions leagues.
Finally, the icing on the cake, Benítez has also played at the international level. After making his debut for the Paraguay national team in 2017, Benítez has accumulated a total of five caps for his country, two of which came during their recent CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers.
With his wealth of experience, the Loons will be hoping to see Benítez make an impact once he is cleared to play, pending a physical and receipt of his visa.